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Sam Boal
home work

Department to explore 'substantial' revisions to remote working bill after criticism

The draft bill has gone down like a “lead balloon” with workers, said Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly.

LAST UPDATE | 18 May 2022

THE DEPARTMENT OF Enterprise is considering reducing the number of grounds upon which employers will be able to refuse an employee’s request to work remotely in new legislation.

The Government’s Right to Request Remote Working Bill was unveiled earlier this year and is currently facing pre-legislative scrutiny from TDs and senators.

According to the initial draft of the bill, employers would be able to refuse a request to work from home on 13 separate grounds.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar has previously said the Government hopes the legislation will lead to “more remote working, more home working“, more hybrid working”.

Trade unions and opposition politicians, meanwhile, have heavily criticised the framework favours business owners over workers and gives employees little room to appeal a decision to refuse their request.

But speaking at the Oireachtas enterprise committee today, Dermot Mulligan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said the legislation is currently being revised.

“The department is currently examining how best to strengthen the redress provisions and the right of appeal in the draft legislation,” he said.

“In addition, we are considering a reduction of the enumerated grounds for refusal.”

Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on enterprise, trade and employment, today criticised the level of consultation with stakeholders before the heads of the bill were published.

Echoing remarks made by Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, O’Reilly said that “it’s pretty obvious” that the legislation didn’t go through a normal consultation process.

O’Reilly told Mulligan, “The fact that you’re sitting here saying you’re willing to engage in substantial amendments and changes to it is an indication that… you’ve got it very badly wrong and the Tánaiste got it very badly wrong.”

She added that the draft bill had gone down like a “lead balloon” with workers and trade unions.

Mulligan said there had been an “extensive” consultation process that included 145 written submissions.

“We looked carefully at the submissions that we did get,” he said.

“There has been a divergence of views in relation to the views expressed in those submissions and the details there.

“It’s a matter of us, trying to  allow requests for remote work to be dealt with in a structured way that allows employers and employees to have that conversation in a structured way and to build in certain floor level protections.”

It comes as new research from the department suggests that working remotely could save the average person up to €304 per year.

According to a new research paper, the average commuter could save up to €415 per year on commuting costs if they have the option to work from home. When expected increases of €79 and €30 in home heating and electricity costs are factored in, workers could net savings of up to €304 per annum.

The research will also suggest that firms can reduce their costs if they decide to downsize their offices to take into account and that working from home could lead to a significant carbon reduction emissions, related to decreases in commuting. 

The paper estimates that remote working has the potential to save 164,407 tonnes of CO2 year with an equivalent monetary saving of €7.6 million.

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